COVID-19 | Policies, Initiatives and advisors

Dr. Harsh Vardhan inaugurates Rajkumari Amrit Kaur OPD Block of AIIMS Delhi

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare inaugurated the Rajkumari Amrit Kaur OPD Block of AIIMS, New Delhi today. Prof. R. Guleria, Director, AIIMS and other senior officials of AIIMS were also present on the occasion. Dr. Harsh Vardhan expressed happiness that the new OPD is named after Smt. Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur, renowned freedom fighter and the first Health Minister of the country. Elaborating on the country’s collective efforts against COVID-19, he stated that “gradually we are moving in the direction to win the battle against the pandemic. Less than 2 percent of the COVID affected patients are admitted in ICUs. Our lab network has been strengthened; we have had an exponential growth in the number of labs which have grown from one in Jan 2020 to 1234 today. As on date, we have tested more than 3.26 samples per day”. Dr Harsh Vardhan added that this capacity will be further enhanced to 10 lakh tests per day in the coming 12 weeks. He added that this is matched with progressively increasing recovered cases and the steadily increasing gap between recovered and active cases. This signifies that the measures taken as part of the graded, pre-emptive and pro-active approach under the ‘Whole of Government’ strategy is showing positive results.

Actual case load of COVID-19 patients in the country is only 3, 31,146

A graded, pre-emptive and pro-active approach under the ‘Whole of Government” strategy has been adopted by Government of India along with the States/UTs for prevention, containment and management of COVID-19. The collective efforts are regularly reviewed and monitored at the highest level. The targeted measures have contributed to a steady decline in the number of active cases. As on date, the actual caseload of COVID-19 patients in the country is only 3, 31,146. These contribute to a little more than a third (34.18%) of total cases detected so far. Actual case load of COVID-19 has remained limited and manageable in the country due to proactive measures of containment including house-to-house survey, perimeter control activities, timely contact tracing and surveillance of containment zones, aggressive testing and timely diagnosis, and effective clinical management of the moderate and severe cases through a well implemented standard of care protocol substantially increasing their chances of recovery. As the graph shows, from mid-June 2020 after crossing the 50% mark in Recovery Rate, there is a steady increase in the recovered patients and decline in the number of active cases. 63.25% of the COVID-19 patients have recovered, so far. Simultaneously, there has been a steady dip in the active cases, from around 45% in mid-June 2020 to around 34.18%, as of now.

1234 labs along with use of Rapid Antigen Tests drive Tests Per Million (TPM) to more than 9231

As per the “Test, Trace, Treat” strategy, the Central Government is driving enhanced testing initiatives in State/UTs. As a result, there has been a steady rise in the number of testing labs across the country. The increased testing is in accordance with the ICMR Guidelines and has helped in early detection of cases. All registered medical practitioners can now recommend testing. This coupled with the facilitation of widespread testing by States/UTs through the RT-PCR, TrueNat and CBNAAT lab network has contributed to a surge in the number of samples tested. 3, 26,826 samples have been tested in the last 24 hours. The cumulative number of 1, 27, 39,490 samples tested translated to a figure of 9231.5 testing per million for India. The testing lab network in the country is further strengthened with 1234 labs in the country; 874 labs in the government sector and 360 private labs.

Centre Advisories / Policies / Updates

With steady decline, active COVID-19 cases now constitute a third of total tally, says Health Ministry

India has 3,31,146 active COVID-19 cases, which is around a third of the country’s total tally that rose to 9.68 lakh on Thursday, the Union Health ministry said and credited targeted measures for the steady decline in active caseload. As the country witnessed a record single-day increase of?32,695 cases on Thursday, the ministry said the recovery rate rose to 50 per cent mid-June and thereafter there has been a steady rise in recoveries and a decline in the number of active cases. “Of the total COVID-19 cases, 63.25 per cent have recovered so far. Simultaneously, there has been a steady dip in the number of active cases, from around 45 per cent in mid-June to around 34.18 per cent as of now,” the ministry. A total of 20,783 people have recuperated in the past 24 hours, the highest number of recoveries in a day, taking the total number of recovered cases to 6, 12,814. According to the health ministry’s data updated at 8 am, the number of recoveries exceeds active cases by 2, 81,668.

Department of Biotechnology supported COVID 19 Vaccine -ZyCoV-D, designed and developed by Zydus, begins Adaptive Phase I/II clinical trials

BIRAC has announced that ZyCoV-D, the plasmid DNA vaccine designed and developed by Zydus and partially funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India has initiated Phase I/ II clinical trials in healthy subjects, making it the first indigenously developed vaccine for COVID-19 to be administered in humans in India. The adaptive Phase I/II dose escalation, multi-centric study will assess the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of the vaccine. The human dosing of the vaccine marks a key milestone since the launching of the accelerated vaccine development programme for COVID-19 in February 2020. Dr.  Renu Swarup, Secretary, DBT and Chairperson, BIRAC said, “The Department of Biotechnology Government of India has partnered with Zydus to address rapid development of an indigenous vaccine for COVID-19 under the National Biopharma Mission. This partnership with Zydus is to serve the country’s need for a vaccine to fight the dreaded pandemic which has put a billion people at risk. Such research endeavors will help the country to develop preventive strategies for future disease outbreaks as well and exemplifies the government’s focus on creating an ecosystem that nurtures and encourages new product innovation to make real and measurable changes to issues most relevant to our society.”

Global Advisories/Policies/Updates

WHO Director-General pays tribute to Spain’s sacrifices and leadership to confront COVID-19

World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus today joined the leadership of Spain, paying homage to those who have lost their lives in the country due to COVID-19, saluting the heroic efforts of heath workers and praising the government’s resolute and robust response to reverse the virus’s transmission. “It is with great respect that I join the King of Spain, the Prime Minister and the entire government of the country to pay tribute to the people who have fallen victim to COVID-19,” said Dr Tedros. “I extend my deepest condolences to the families of all people who have lost their lives due to this virus in Spain, and around the world.” At one point, Spain was among the countries impacted most by COVID-19. At the outbreak’s peak, close to 10,000 new cases were reported in a single day in Spain. Since then, intensive efforts, led by robust surveillance, testing, contact tracing, treatment and isolation, have managed to suppress transmission. Dr. Tedros said this shift was due to the leadership shown by Spain and the strong resolve shown by the Spanish public to adhere to strict restrictions, including lockdowns, physical distancing and other critical measures to contain transmission. These efforts, combined, have successfully changed the course of the country’s outbreak.

Singapore reports 248 new cases of corona virus

Singapore has reported 248 new cases of corona virus, majority among the foreign workers living in dormitories, taking the total tally of infections in the country to 47,126 cases, the health ministry said on Thursday. In its daily bulletin, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said, the latest cases include 237 foreign workers living in dormitories and 11 in the community, two of whom were foreigners on dependant passes and two Singaporeans (citizens) or permanent residents (foreigners). Singapore has reported 248 new cases of corona virus. The average number of daily cases in the community has decreased from 14 cases two weeks ago to 13 in the past week, the health ministry said in a statement. A total of 159 patients are hospitalised while 3,704 are recuperating in the community facilities.

Russia to mass produce experimental Covid-19 vaccine

Russia plans to produce 30 million doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine domestically this year, with the potential to manufacture a further 170 million doses abroad, the head of the country's sovereign wealth fund said. The first human trial of the vaccine, a month-long test on 38 people, ended this week. Researchers concluded that it is safe for use and induces an immune response, though the strength of that response is as yet unclear. A larger Phase III trial involving several thousand people is expected to begin in August, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) head Kirill Dmitriev. "We believe that based on the current results it will be approved in Russia in August and in some other countries in September..., making it possibly the first vaccine to be approved in the world," he told in an interview.

 State Advisories / Policies / Updates

Punjab to create special Covid-19 reserves

Expressing concern over spread of corona virus and rising fatalities, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh asked the Director General of Police (DGP) to create special Covid reserves by withdrawing personnel deployed on non-essential duties for the next few months. Chairing a Covid review meeting through video link, the Chief Minister also asked DGP Dinkar Gupta to act against violators of safety norms, especially those found without masks. He said the Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) of cities with large case loads must strictly enforce Covid-19 curbs and norms. Deaths in Punjab increased to 7.7 per million, Singh asked the Health Department to identify containment and micro-containment zones quickly and clampdown on them. The state has 38 micro-containment zones in 12 districts and seven containment zones in six districts. He also called for increase in testing as per the target set by the state government.

Bihar's Covid-19 tally reaches 21,558 with 1,385 new cases

With 1,385 fresh cases of COVID-19 recorded in Bihar on Thursday, the number of patients in the state reached 21,558. According to the Health Department, the state capital has recorded the maximum number of 378 COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total infections to 2,879 on Thursday. The Department also added that in the last 24 hours, Nalanda reported 93 new cases, 68 in Muzaffarpur, 63 in Siwan, 59 in Jamui, 55 in Bhagalpur, 54 in Bhojpur and 53 in West Champaran. So far, 13,533 patients have been discharged in Bihar after recoveries. The state's recovery rate now stands at 67.08 per cent.

Meghalaya to close all entry points to state from July 24-31

The Meghalaya government has decided to close all entry points to the state from July 24 to 31 to intensify Covid-19 surveillance, as its caseload rose to 354 on Thursday with 16 more security personnel testing positive for the infection, officials said. Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said only people engaged in essential services will be permitted to enter the state during the period. "To reduce the burden on our health workers and administration engaged in intensive surveillance for the past four months, the state government has decided to close all the entry points to the state from July 24 to 31," he said. The entry points of Byrnihat, Ratacherra, Bajengdoba, Tikrikilla, Mirjumla and Hallidayganj will be shut during the period. They will be reopened on August 1, Sangma said, adding that the one at Byrnihat will be shifted to a new location to ensure smooth movement of traffic.

Industry Updates 

Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine hopes rise with strong trial results

Researchers at the University of Oxford believe they may have a breakthrough in their search for a COVID-19 vaccine after the team discovered that the jab could provide "double protection" against the deadly corona virus following early stage human trials, according to media reports in the UK. Blood samples taken from a group of UK volunteers given a dose of the vaccine showed that it stimulated the body to produce both antibodies and killer T-cells, a senior source from the trial was quoted by The Daily Telegraph' as saying. The discovery is promising because separate studies have suggested that antibodies may fade away within months while T-cells can stay in circulation for years. However, the source cautioned that the results, while extremely promising, did not yet prove that the Oxford vaccine provides long-lasting immunity against the deadly virus. I can tell you that we now know the Oxford vaccine covers both bases it produces both a T cell and an antibody response. It's the combination of these two that will hopefully keep people safe. 

China's Sinopharm begins late stage trial of Covid-19 vaccine in UAE

Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm has begun Phase III clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine in Abu Dhabi using up to 15,000 volunteers, the government in the capital of the United Arab Emirates said on Thursday. The human trial is a partnership between Sinopharm's China National Biotec Group (CNBG), Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company Group 42 (G42) and the Abu Dhabi Department of Health. The study, which began on Wednesday, is the world's first Phase III trial of an inactivated vaccine, G42 Healthcare CEO Ashish Koshy said. Inactivated vaccines are well known and have been used against diseases such as influenza and measles. No COVID-19 vaccine has yet been approved for commercial use. According to a WHO summary of the state of vaccine development for COVID-19, there are 23 potential vaccines in human trials, with three of them in or starting large-scale late stage, or Phase III, trials to test efficacy.

Prepared by Impact Health Research Team

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